Comparing MacBooks – Mine is Better than Yours

As many of you know, I’ve had a Mac laptop since 2006.  I love my PC (and yes, regardless of what OS it runs, OSX or Windows (or in my case, both), PC still stands for Personal Computer); and honestly, I carry it just about everywhere I go.  That’s part of my problem, too.

The contents of my Gear Bag

In my Gear Bag, I have just about anything and everything that I would need in my portable office.  I have my 13” Unibody MacBook, my MSI Wind U100-422CA (CAnadian keyboard), my Kindle2, a copy of Windows Vista Ultimate Windows Vista Business, Office 2007 Ultimate, various other CD’s, miscellaneous paperwork, a 320GB USB hard drive and charging bricks and cables for all of the above. The bag weighs near 40 pounds; and is the major reason why when I considered a new computer purchase, I decided on the 13” unibody MacBook instead of the 15” MacBook Pro – the 13” MB is lighter in day-to-day use.

In November of last year, my father approached me and asked me to spec a PC for him. He had retired, and had to give his Dell Latitude D610 back to the office.  He wanted something to replace it, and he wanted something that was going to last.  While money was somewhat of an object, he said he wanted to get the right PC, and wanted to get something that would carry him for a good, long, time.

In my mind there wasn’t any question – Dad wanted the (then) new 15” unibody MacBook Pro.  He took my recommendation, and we got him the following 15” MBP:

  • 2.8gHz Core2Duo Processor
  • 4GB 1067mHz DDR3 RAM (max of 4GB)
  • 320GB 7200RPM HDD


Picture 2
Dad’s November 2008 15” MacBook Pro


At the time, it was the top of the line 15” MBP.  Dad also got a 20” Apple Cinema Display (older model, instead of the new LED Cinema Display), as he intended to run XP, and as I recall, there weren’t any Boot Camp drivers available for the newer Cinema Displays. 

I got Dad XP Pro, Office 2007 Ultimate, leather carrying case, wireless keyboard and mouse, as well as a Startech USB VGA docking station (though he uses a mini-DVI to DVI adapter from Apple to connect to his Cinema Display instead of using the video card/chip in the docking station.

All told, dad spent almost $5000, including tax, title, license and out the door.

My mom has had a very tough year.  The first anniversary of her heart transplant is August 22, 2009.  She spent most of 2008 in the ICU waiting on a heart.  Her company got her set up at home with her PC when her health got too bad for her to make the 90 minute commute in to the office in late 2007.  She hasn’t been back to work since early April 2008; and has been placed on long term disability.  She’s effectively retired.

Recently, her company contacted her and asked her to return her PC.  Dad called me and told me to spec a PC for mom.  He said he wanted to get a MacBook Pro for her too; and asked if I would spec one for her and set it up just like I did for him. The decision wasn’t difficult.  We got mom the following 15” MBP:

  • 3.06gHz Core2Duo
  • 4GB 1067mHz DDR3 RAM (max of 8GB)
  • 500GB 5400RPM HDD
  • Non-removable battery
  • SD Card Slot


Picture 3
Mom’s June 2009 15” MacBook Pro


Mom has a Startech USB VGA docking station, XP Pro, Office 2007 Enterprise (including both Project 2007 Standard and Visio 2007 Enterprise).  Mom also got a free 8GB iPod Touch as part of the deal (by the way, its free after mail in rebate… that’s not widely publicized as part of the deal at the Apple Online Store).

All told, mom spent under $4000, including tax, title, license and out the door.

I (and very quickly…) needed to loose some of the weight out of my Gear Bag.  I loved my late 2006 MBP, but it was much too big, considering everything else that I had in my bag; and, more importantly, could not take complete advantage of either Windows 7 or Snow Leopard.  I wanted something that could, without a doubt.  I intend to write articles on both OS releases, and wanted something that could definitely handle the “pounding” that I intend to give it.

So about 5 months ago (at the time of this writing), I bought an early 2009 13” unibody MacBook. It was top of the line when I bought it:

  • 2.4gHz Core2Duo
  • 4GB 1067mHz DDR3 RAM (max of 4GB)
  • 250GB 5400RPM HDD (now has a 500GB 5400RPM HDD)


Picture 1
My early 2009 13” MacBook


So now that we know what the players are, let’s take a look and see how these things really stack up.  Having all three of these laptops here for a while was really awesome.  I’ve sent them on their way to Mom and Dad, and yes, it was hard to let them go… They are really awesome machines. 

While there’s really no way for me to say that my 13” out-performed EITHER of these MBP’s I will tell you I wouldn’t change my choice.  Remember, I chose my Mac based on size and its ability to run Snow Leopard (which it can, without any issues or loss of functionality, according to the information I’ve seen at Apple). So, lets just get to the pics… they’re pretty cool.

From Left to Right – My early 2009 13” MacBook, Dad’s late 2008 MBP, and Mom’s June 2009 MBP

Its easy to spot my MB, but it takes a real keen eye to tell the two 15” MBP’s apart, at least from this angle.  It you’ll notice, the June 2009 looks somewhat thinner than the Late 2008. I’m not sure if that’s an optical illusion, or if you really can see the difference, as I thought the June 2009 MBP’s were slightly thinner.

From bottom to top- Mom’s June 2009 MBP, Dad’s late 2008 MBP, and my early 2009 13” MacBook.

You can really tell the difference in size between the 13” and the 15” cases.

Right Side, From bottom to top- Mom’s June 2009 MBP, Dad’s late 2008 MBP, and my early 2009 13” MacBook.

Big difference, right?  Actually, bigger than you think. I don’t care what anyone says I’m not putting a Kensington lock anywhere near any of my MB/P’s optical drives.  Who was the genius that thought putting the Kensington slot near the DVD drive was a good idea??

Front From bottom to top- Mom’s June 2009 MBP, Dad’s late 2008 MBP, and my early 2009 13” MacBook.

The size difference, again, is very easy to see. 

Left Side (and the business end) From bottom to top- Mom’s June 2009 MBP, Dad’s late 2008 MBP, and my early 2009 13” MacBook.

Here’s a really good shot of the business side of the three newer MacBooks.  From left to right, my 13” (on top) has a MagSafe Connector, RJ45 Jack (Gigabit Ethernet), 2 USB ports, a mini DVI port, Audio In, Audio Out and Kensington security slot.  My MB is missing the FireWire port that the other two 15” MBP’s have.

Dad’s MBP (in the middle) has a MagSafe Connector, RJ45 Jack (Gigabit Ethernet), FireWire port, 2 USB ports, a mini DVI port, Audio In, Audio Out and Express Card slot.

Mom’s MBP (on the bottom) has a MagSafe Connector, RJ45 Jack (Gigabit Ethernet), FireWire port, a mini DVI port, 2 USB ports, SD Card slot, and Audio In, Audio Out.

You’ll remember, I did my original unboxing of Mom’s MBP for the site in mid June. You can also see the unboxing video below.

This was my first video unboxing. It was actually taken with my Propel Pro, so it really did a pretty good job! I was actually impressed.  My daughter, Amanda, was behind the camera.  I think she did a pretty good job!

Dad’s Late 2008 15” MBP – Notice the seam and battery latch

One of the things that I’ve noticed with both Dad’s 15” MBP and my 13” MB is that the battery seam can sometimes cause the notebook to sit funny, depending on where and how it sits on a table or other flat surface.

Mom’s June 2009 15” MBP – Notice no battery seam or latch


There are a couple of things that I want to say about Mom’s June 2009 MBP before I stick this one with a fork and call it done –   Oh my goodness!  That thing ROCKED!  The performance under XP left a bit to be desired. Honestly, it was about the same as Dad’s MBP; but under OSX..?  Oh!  Night and day, baby. Night and day!

Mom’s 3.06GHz box kicked some MAJOR butt on the Mac side.  It booted up in under 15 seconds to a full desktop, and was ready to go before you could even sit down. Its too bad that Mom isn’t the Mac type (she wants to use XP, and XP alone), though I left Leopard on there for her, just in case I could entice her to give it a try.

The box under XP was mediocre at best, and again no better than Dad’s box (honestly, the difference between 2.8 and 3.06GHz isn’t all that much). This is undoubtedly a driver related issues, and I think both of these boxes under Windows 7 would be equally as well performing under Leopard.

At the end of the day, I am very satisfied with my 13” MB. Honestly, there’s not a lot of difference between it and the new 13” MBP (just a FireWire port, really…); and since Mom won’t use her Snow Leopard license, I’ve got it coming to me when its released in September.

How about you, though?  Do you have a new Mac laptop?  Did you get a June (or later) 2009 MacBook Pro?  Did you get the 13” flavor?  I’d love to hear about your experiences with the newer Mac laptops. I think they are just about the best pieces of hardware out on the market, though, you will definitely pay a premium for them.  Why don’t you join us in the discussion below and let us know what you think!

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